“The goal of description is to create a well-designed set that provides the perfect background for your characters—a setting that stays in the background without overwhelming the scene or interrupting the story.” —Moira Allen
In real life, we explore our surroundings through our actions and experience them through our senses. Create a structure for your characters to do the same.
Craft your descriptions so details unfold as your character moves through the scene.
Know which details your character would notice right away and which details will register more slowly.
Suppose, for example, your heroine is a secretary of humble origins and has just entered the mansion of a millionaire.
Let her notice how soft the rich Persian carpet feels underfoot, how it muffles her footfalls, how she is tempted to remove her shoes.
Don’t mention how soft the sofa is until she sinks into it. Let her smell the leather cushions. Bring in other smells as she scans the room: A bouquet of dahlias, a rich pipe tobacco smell.
Mention the heavy, marble center table your hero has to detour around to look at the bronze statue on the credenza. Show him blinking as he looks at the glittering light reflected from the crystal chandelier.
Do not mention the masterpieces on the walls if your character doesn’t know who Klimt or Vermeer are. Go with what your character would know and notice.
A fisherman would notice different details about the sea and beach than an accountant with limited coastal experiences.
Think of a character to write about. This character could be imagined or based on a real person or a based on a fictional character.
Write a scene from that character’s point of view.
Setting could be:
~ A sea coast
~A classroom, perhaps an alma mater
~ Farmer’s market in a villa
~ Cruise ship
~A bustling coffee shop in a big city
~A quiet coffee shop in a small town
Choose a character, choose a setting, and Just Write!
Adapted from “How to Bring Your Settings to Life,” by Moira Allen, The Writer magazine, March 1999
Join Writers Forum Saturday afternoons during October 2021 to practice writing in a free-form style.
#justwrite #amwriting #scenesetting